Danilo Petrucci managed to translate a fifth row starting slot into a fine sixth place finish in the scorching Malaysian MotoGP race at Sepang to consolidate a top-ten place in the world championship.
The Italian rode to his best dry weather result of the year a day after a fall on Saturday and a lowly 13th place qualifying spot belied a solid race pace and consistency.
Opting for a bike set-up that favoured braking stability, Petrucci was extremely strong in sectors one and four, and powered past Pol Espargaro and the Suzukis of Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales to claim a fine result.
“It was maybe one of the hardest races of my life. We worked hard for the race pace, it was good. In qualifying I made a lot of mistakes. I was focused on the braking area, tried to force that point and I get confusion everywhere! It was a small crash. I try to push directly to go into Q2…it was in my hands but I remember in the first sector I was two tenths slower than my best T (split time). I try to push harder and only have one chance with the soft tyre. I go into turn seven eight kph faster than my last lap, release the brake earlier and I close the front. It was my mistake. For me the direct access to Q2 is my main difficulty of the weekend!
“We tried this morning in the warm-up two different bikes. One bike from Friday and one from Saturday. They were two very different bikes with weight load. Anyway, I choose one but I was not really happy. I could manage better the braking area. It's the strong point of this bike. Anyway, in the race I was able to stay calm the first five or six laps to stay with the two Espargaros.
“When I saw I was very strong in the braking area, I didn't expect it because yesterday it was my weakest point. I use that point for going faster. In fact I was very fast in the first and last sectors, where there were the two main braking areas. In the other two parts –S2 and S3 – I was able to stay together with the Espargaros every laps.
“Then I could manage to stay close to him. I overtook him and for half of the race I thought, 'Ok, if I'm close, I will pass them.' When it was five or six laps to go I saw that I gained four tenths I tried to push harder. I gave 101 percent and gained two tenths per lap and saw I was 1.5s in front. It was very, very difficult to finish the race but we did a great job.”
It was confirmed to Crash.net
by Pramac team manager Francesco Guidotti that both Petrucci and 2016 team-mate Scott Redding will receive the latest full-factory equipment from Ducati, meaning both riders will start the year on very similar, if not identical, equipment to Andrea Dovizioso and Iannone.
Petrucci went on to thank his Pramac crew and feels he is well placed to solidify a top-ten place in the world championship. He currently sits ninth, four points ahead of the younger Espargaro.
“My team made an awesome job. They understand me and I understand them. That's half of the work. I always say this is not a one-man show. It's a team. I would like to say thanks to all my team. Now we are more comfortable in the top ten in the championship. I fight with the two Espargaros at Valencia, a track that I like so much. I would like to finish in the top ten. That's my target and I want to stay close to them, maybe in front of them like today, because I didn't expect to stay in front of them today. Anyway, I stayed. I'm really happy.”